Most teams would be reeling after losing four games in a row to fall below .500 for the first time in five weeks, but somehow, it still feels like the Kings are on the rise as they enter another pivotal portion of their schedule.,The Kings fought the two-time defending-champion Golden State Warriors to the end for the third time this season before falling 127-123 in a wildly entertaining game Saturday night at Golden 1 Center.,Sacramento’s last three losses came against three of the top seven teams in the Western Conference.,That stretch included eight games against teams currently in the top eight, including two against the Warriors, two against the Los Angeles Lakers and one against the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.,The Kings will play their next eight games against six teams with a combined record of 137-168, five of them against an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back.

What if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, instead of continuing east to Tuscaloosa, when he left high school in Hawaii?,At the end of the regular season, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart accepted the head coaching job at Georgia, which prompted blue-chip recruit Jake Fromm to flip from the Crimson Tide to the Bulldogs.,But Tagovailoa later told a Hawaiian television crew that he might have left if not for the 2018 championship game, when Alabama coach Nick Saban pulled him off the bench and he ended up leading the team to victory over Georgia with a long touchdown pass in overtime.,The way Tagovailoa quickly changed things at Alabama, taking command of an offense that had played second-fiddle to the defense, transforming it into a juggernaut that averages more than 527 yards and 47 points.,In his first season as a starter — albeit surrounded by a better team — Tagovailoa just missed winning the Heisman Trophy, passing for 3,671 yards and 41 touchdowns while limiting his interceptions to four.

Illinois State Police documents show that the agency frequently assigns troopers to escort sports teams, musicians and even filmmakers across the congested roadways of greater Chicago.,Illinois State Police wouldn’t comment on the trip, so the Tribune made a public records request for all police escort contracts in 2018.,Though critics have called police escorts for sports teams a frivolous and potentially dangerous use of public resources, state police defend them as a way to provide “safety and security for all those involved in the motorcade as well as for the motoring public.”,The contracts show that visiting NFL teams routinely receive police escorts to and from the airport, hotels and Soldier Field.,College football teams are also major customers: Northwestern University had a standing order for police escorts between its team hotel and Ryan Field on game days, and the University of Illinois paid for the service when it played at Soldier Field in September.

The 237th Bedlam meeting will tip at 1 p.m. CT in OU’s first Saturday home game of the season.,• OU has won 19 of its last 21 games inside Lloyd Noble Center and 21 of its last 23 “home” games (includes victories in OKC and Tulsa).,• Saturday’s matchup is just OU’s fourth game at Lloyd Noble Center this season.,• Oklahoma averages 35.8 paint points per game and is averaging 41.0 paint points over its last four games.,• Oklahoma is 8-2 in games away from Norman this season (includes “home” victories in OKC and Tulsa).

The road was paved to the Final Four, but Nevada’s run ended with a one-point loss to Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago, a bitter end to a banner year that saw Nevada win the Mountain West, earn 29 victories (tied for the most in program history) and reach the Sweet 16 for the second time ever.,Dan Avansino takes aim at Manogue Reno High’s Dan Avansino entered 2018 as the longest-tenured Northern Nevada football coach at the 4A level with the same school.,Nevada women reach MW Tournament final The Wolf Pack women’s basketball team had an up-and-down first season under head coach Amanda Levens, but it ended in historic fashion, with Nevada reaching the Mountain West Tournament title game for the first time in its history.,The Wolf Pack led Boise State for much of the game before a buzzer-beater sent the Broncos to a 62-60 win to deprive Nevada of its first NCAA Tournament berth.,When it was founded in 2008, the Bighorns were Northern Nevada’s first affiliated minor-league team in more than 15 years after the city lost the Reno Silver Sox in 1992.

And it should serve as a reminder to the rest of the  AFC playoff field that even though the Patriots may have looked vulnerable at times this season, and even though Brady himself may not be the MVP quarterback he was a year ago, and even though New England has some shaky losses on its record, the fact is that Bill Belichick’s team is back where it always is: playing meaningful football in January.,Over the past seven seasons, the Patriots have gone 7-0 in the divisional round, winning by an average of 17 points per game.,But if the Texans can come up with a timely interception or two — the way they did in Foxboro during a playoff game two years ago — then it could lead to some tense moments in Foxboro for the home team.,They led the AFC with over 150 rushing yards per game and 19 rushing touchdowns on the season.,They ranked first in the NFL in yards allowed (293/game), second in points allowed (17.9/game), fourth in rushing yards allowed, fifth in passing yards allowed, third in third-down defense and second in opponent passer rating.

For the ninth year in a row, the New England Patriots have earned a first round bye and now the team will await the results of next weekend's Wild Card games to learn who their next opponent will be.,If Houston is able to beat Indianapolis at home next weekend, the Patriots and Texans would face off in the divisional round at Gillette Stadium for the third time since the 2012 season.,The Chargers were tied for sixth in the league in scoring (26.8 points per game), got great seasons from quarterback Phillip Rivers (4,308 yards, 32 touchdowns) and receiver Keenan Allen (97 catches, 1,196 yards, 6 touchdowns), and also had one of the league's better defenses, ranking eighth in the league in points allowed (20.6).,Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

The earliest the Patriots could possibly face the Chiefs is in the AFC Championship Game, but should the Patriots win their divisional round matchup, the Chiefs would be the most likely opponent.,While Indianapolis has won four-straight entering the playoffs and would be red hot going into a prospective AFC Championship Game, the Patriots did beat the Colts 38-24 at home in Week 5 this year. read more

The Cavaliers, who jumped South Carolina with a 28-0 beatdown in Saturday’s Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., spent Christmas Day practicing in Charlottesville and then riding a bus to the Queen City, leaving little time for holiday festivities.,(8-5), which finished a season with a victory for the first time since 2005, kept the ball away from the Gamecocks for all but 17 minutes and 25 seconds, putting up 413 total yards to South Carolina’s 251.,Mendenhall and his players said in the days leading up to the game that stopping the run would be paramount.,The Cavaliers took a monumental leap last season, going 6-7 and falling badly to Navy in the Military Bowl, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2011.,returned to campus after Navy’s thorough 49-7 win to end last season, Mendenhall said, the players had talked frequently about the importance of not only beating the Hokies for the first time since 2003, but about the intrinsic value of going out with a win.

The Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association’s Winter Round Up tournament for novice and atom players saw a local team win gold over the weekend.,However, the tournament saw a skills challenge that gave all 368 kids on 24 teams a chance to take part in two of the five events.,Sniper Bryson Roberts of the Rustlers atom A3 event won the breakaway challenge, after going seven rounds against a Mission shooter.,There were two other Ridge Mead0ws goaltenders who finished second in the breakaway event and also won awards – Cristiano Pelegrin-Hicks for the atom A3 and Chayse Kazakoff of the novice major.,With the Winter Round Up finished, the Ridge Meadows association will now host its Hometown Heros event which runs from Jan. 2-5 for pee wee and bantam teams.

Playing its first game as a ranked team this season, No. 23 Oklahoma owns eight wins away from Norman while facing the second toughest strength of schedule according to the NCAA NET Rankings.,• Oklahoma is off to its fourth start of 11-1 (or better) during Kruger’s eight seasons as head coach (also third in the last four seasons).,• Oklahoma is 8-1 in games away from Norman this season (includes “home” victories in OKC and Tulsa).,• Oklahoma averages 34.6 paint points per game and is averaging 44.0 paint points over its last three games.,• Oklahoma has won 19 of its last 21 games inside Lloyd Noble Center and 21 of its last 23 “home” games (includes victories in OKC and Tulsa).